Fatigue Fashion: History of the OG-107 Trousers
Fatigue pants are everywhere right now. From Uniqlo to Engineered Garments, everyone has their take on the iconic trousers. You can buy them in any possible shade and material, but they all owe homage to one of the U.S. Army’s most prolific pieces of kit: the OG-107 fatigue trouser.
Named for the color of the 8.5oz. carded cotton sateen that they were made of, the OG (Olive Green) utility uniform would end up being one of the longest issued uniforms in the U.S. Army. The OG-107’s first saw production in 1952 and, after a few variations, were phased out by 1981, becoming the defining uniform of the Cold War and Vietnam in the process.
Like most mid-century U.S. military uniforms and equipment, the industrial scale and large contracts (i.e. the military industrial complex) ensured that millions of OG-107 uniforms would enter the civilian market, first via surplus and then, as many military uniforms do, trickle up into the fashion industry.
The OG-107 trousers were introduced in 1952, but to truly understand where they came from and how they would eventually be utilized, you need to go back to the 1949 Army Uniform Board where the complete overhaul of the Army’s uniforms started. The introduction of not only the uniform but the color OG-107 itself is an important and purposeful change from the Olive Drab color of WWII. The Army charted a new course in the Cold War and looked to define itself as a world power projecting its heavily starched Olive Green uniforms across the globe.
The design of the OG-107 trousers was incredibly simple and remained nearly unchanged during its issued lifespan. The trousers and matching “jacket”—worn as a shirt—were made of 8.5oz. carded cotton sateen in the new Army standard OG-107 color. This fabric was the result of textile research conducted during the Korean War to find a more durable replacement for the WWII-era herringbone twill (HBT) but retained its light weight. The HBT uniform had started out as fatigue wear, but with the reality of modern warfare, these more casual and practical uniforms became battle dress in WWII and Korea.
While officially the US Army used the term “utility uniform” to describe the new OG-107’s, soldiers continued to refer to them as fatigues as they had HBTs. The first specification for the trousers was dated November 21, 1952, and included all the hallmarks we recognize today: two large front patch pockets, two rear patch pockets with buttons flap closures, and size adjustment tabs. The simple design mimicked a few other US military trousers over the previous decades. Front facing patch pockets can be seen on pre-WWII US Army denim dungarees and on models of the USMC P41 trousers. The 1947 model HBT trousers, in fact, are essentially the same design as the OG-107 trousers.
The two modifications to the trousers came in late 1964 and in 1975. First, in 1964 the jacket and trousers changed from “small”, “medium”, “large” to true measurements (i.e. “32×30”) and with this the waist adjustment tabs were removed. As the Vietnam War ground on and the casualization of the military started with its transition to an all-volunteer force, emphasis on starched and tailored fatigues waned. To this effect, the Army introduced a new “durable press” polyester cotton blend trousers in an OG-507 shade. This later model can be weeded out by looking for a bright yellow internal tag with care instructions and a zipper fly.
With OG-107 fatigues being standard issue across most branches of the military and in every GI’s duffle bag, they would be the most iconic sartorial choice of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) protesting the war in their issued fatigues. They would also have a few pop culture appearances including being essentially the only trousers worn by the cast of M*A*S*H for eleven seasons. Veterans and a thriving surplus market guaranteed that these trousers are still one of the most commonly found military pants on the market. As is the case with many Surplus military items, the early generations of hikers, rock climbers and hippies donned OG-107 trousers. Surplus items like the trousers were valued for their durability and cheap prices either for hardwearing outdoor people or those looking to remove themselves from consumerist-centered society.
If you are looking to buy vintage, OG-107 trousers are easily found on the like of Etsy and eBay. If you don’t feel like digging through online searches or bins at the local surplus store, curated sellers like Broadway & Sons offer original trousers.
If vintage isn’t for you, you can find OG-107 styled trousers from a variety of sellers from mass market to high end. Many brands market fatigue style trousers as “fatigue style” or as “baker pants.” The reasoning for the latter is not grounded in any bit of the trouser’s history and seems to be a Japanese born fashionism. On the more economical side, you have Stan Ray with their simple take. Iron Heart makes a faithful interpretation down to the buttons. One of my current favorites is Best Made’s take on the trouser. They forgo the front patch pockets but the fabric is dead on to the original sateen along with the buttons. With such a simple recipe, it’s hard to mess up a new take on a pair of old OG-107s.
So whether you’re following in the footsteps of military style, the anti-war subversiveness of the Vietnam War protesters, or are simply looking for a cheap and eco-conscious alternative, the OG-107 trouser will be around. Though it defined army uniforms for decades, it may come to define your wardrobe for at least a few seasons.